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Taiheiyo Ferry's New Flag Ship, the Ishikari

Tsuyoshi Ishiyama

1. March 11, 2011

"An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 8.4 struck off the northern coast of Japan on Friday, shaking buildings in Tokyo and triggering tsunami warnings. (snip) The Japan Meteorological Agency put the epicenter of the quake off the eastern coast of Miyagi Prefecture, which is part of the Tohoku region. The temblor hit at 2:46 p.m. and was followed by strong aftershocks." (The Asahi Shimbun Extra: Friday, March 11, 2011)

When the massive earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 hit Japan, at the port of Tokyo, Taiheiyo Ferry's new flag ship, the Ishikari's private view for media and invited guests just ended. Mr. Ryohei Yanagihara, an artist painter, who is known as a ship aficionado was invited, and he drew a picture of the Ishikari on the wall of the promenado ad-lib and wrote his signature. The date of the signature was 'March 11, 2011'.

A similar private view for media was set to be held in Sendai on March 12, and in Tomakomai on March 13. And the Ishikari was due to enter service on March 13. But owing to the earthquake, all events and all services were forced to cancel. The Ishikari left the port of Tokyo immediately. She was not damaged by the tsunamis.

2. Taiheiyo Ferry

Taiheiyo Ferry's predecessor concern, Taiheiyo Enkai Ferry was founded in Nagoya, the fourth largest city of Japan where is located in the central Japan on October 20, 1970. Taiheiyo Enkai Ferry was one of related companies of Nagoya Tetsudo or Nagoya Railroad Co. and 'Taiheiyo Enkai Ferry' means 'Pacific Coastal Ferries'. In 1972, the first vessel, Arkas (9,779gt) began to ply between Nagoya and Oita in Kyushu, the south island of Japan.

In 1973, the Albireo (9,779gt), the Alnasl (6,934gt) and the Argo (6,949gt) entered services one right after the other on the Nagoya-Oita route .

The Nagoya-Sendai-Tomakomai route opened in April, 1973. The Albireo was transfered to the route from the Nagoya-Oita route, and plied between Nagoya and Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, via Sendai, the central city of the Tohoku region. In June, the Arkas also began to run on the route as a running mate.

The original Ishikari (11,880gt) entered service on the Nagoya-Sendai-Tomakomai route on December 23, 1974. In June, 1975, her sister ship, Daisetsu (11,879gt) went into commission. Both ferries were built at Naikai Zosen Setoda shipyard, and were improved the Arkas-class. The 'Ishikari' and the 'Daisetsu' were named after place-names in Hokkaido. In 1980, both vessels were extended length of 12.5 meters, and increased their gross tonnage to 12,853 (Japanese domestic gross tonnage: Under Japanese measurement systems, the capacity of enclosed car decks is not included.).

Meanwhile, on the Nagoya-Oita route, the Alnasl and the Argo began to call at Nachi Katsuura, located near Taiji, a known whaling town in Kii Peninsula.

Now, two oil crises of 1973 and 1978 impacted on Japanese ferry industries, and Taiheiyo Enkai Ferry also couldn't escape the impacts. In December, 1979, the Alnasl was sold to Nippon Car Ferry (renamed 'Ebino' (6,916gt).). And then, in April, 1980, Taiheiyo Enkai Ferry lastly closed down the money-losing Nagoya-Nachi Katsuura-Oita route. The Argo was laid up, and in November, sold to Kansai Kisen (renamed 'Ferry Kogane Maru' (6,949gt).).

On April 8, 1982, in order to implement management reconstruction measures, a subsidiary company of Nagoya Railroad Co., Taiheiyo Ferry was newly established in Nagoya, and all resources including the fleet, routes, etc. were transfered from Taiheiyo Enkai Ferry to Taiheiyo Ferry. Taiheiyo Ferry focused on the operation of the Nagoya-Sendai-Tomakomai route with four vessels, the Arkas, the Albireo, the Ishikari and the Daisetsu.

In January, 1985, Taiheiyo Ferry sold the Daisetsu to the Sapporo-based Higashi Nihon Ferry (renamed 'Varuna' (12,855gt).).

The year 1985 marked a turning point for Japan's economy. Since the Plaza Accord in September, the economy was booming. And when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Japanese bubble economy reached a peak.

Under these social situation, Taiheiyo Ferry decided to introduce luxury cruiseferries. The prototype was the cruseferry on the Baltic Sea. On October 26, 1987, the Kiso (13,730gt) entered service (the Arkas was sold to Strintzis Lines.), and on Ocober 21, 1989, the more luxury Kitakami (13,937gt) went into service (the Albireo was sold to Strintzis Lines.). On March 25, 1991, the most luxury Ishikari (14,257gt) entered service (the Ishikari (I) was sold to Strintzis Lines.). Both the Kiso and the Kitakami were built at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Shimonoseki shipyard, the Ishikari (II), however, was built at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Kobe shipyard, which built cruise ships, the Fuji Maru and the Nippon Maru. The interior decorating was devoted to 'Caribbean wind'. Her vaulted three-story entrance hall with a big tree was especially impressive. She enthraled a lot of ship aficionados at a blow, and earned the prize for 'Ferry of the Year' from 1992 to 2004 continuously on a Japanese 'Cruise' magazine's reader's poll.

But in 1991, the share market crashed and land prices fell. The so-called 'bubble economy' collapsed. Japan plunged into a long depression. Additionally, in September 2008, Lehman Brothers went bust, and all the world has suffered a business depression.

Even under these circumstances, Taiheiyo Ferry built the Kiso (15,795gt) in January 2005 (the Kiso (I) was sold to Hellenic Seaways.), and refurbished the Kitakami at the cost of around 300 million yen in February.?

On November 24, 2009, the construction of the new Queen started at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Shimonoseki shipyard. The vessel was launched on August 26, 2010, and the president of Taiheiyo Ferry, Mr. Tetsuo Watanabe nemed the vessel 'Ishikari'. The date of entering service of the Ishikari (III) was announced 'March 13, 2011'. The former Ishikari (II) was sold to a Chinese interest. She left the last commercial voyage from Tomakomai in the night on March 6, 2011.

3. Ishikari

?It is said that the total cost of construction of the Ishikari (III) was around 11,500 millinon yen. Her basic design is the almost same as the Kiso (II). Her exterior view is also the almost same. But the two ships are not exactly the same.

The theme of the interior decorating of the Kiso (II) is 'Tune of the South Pacific', and reminds you Tahiti. At the same time, the theme of the Ishikari (III) is 'Brightness of the Aegean Sea', and her interior decorating is Blue & White tune, which brings up the image of blue Greek waters & skies, and white-walled buildings. Her interior designers were two female designers of Nikken Space Design, which is an interior decorating division of Nikken Sekkei, Ms. Risa Misawa & Ms. Yuko Tsukumo. They have worked on interior decoratings of some hotels, etc. in Japan.

There are car decks on from the Deck 1 to the Deck 4, they can accommodate 184 trucks and 100 cars. From the Deck 5 to the Deck 7 are areas for passengers, and the Deck 8 is an area for crew members, as well as the bridge.

When you get on board the Ishikari (Deck 5), you will see a towering observatory elevator in the three-story entrance hall. It looks like a Greek marble naos, and you will see the theme of her interior decorating at first sight.

Shop, Grand Baths, Karaoke Studio, Game Corner, Kids Room, Massager Corner, Laundry Room, etc., as well as Information Desk are on the Deck 5. First Class Cabins, Special Class Cabins (or Deluxe Cabins) and S Berths are on the bow, and B Berths & Drivers' Cabins (cabins for truck drivers) are on the stern.

On the Deck 6, Royal Suite, Suite, Semi-Suites, First Class Cabins and Special Class Cabins (or Deluxe Cabins) are on the bow. From the midship to the stern, there are public rooms: Cafe 'Yacht Club', 'Piano Stage', 'Green Stage', 'Promenade', restaurant 'Santorini', and theater 'Mykonos' on the stern.

And on the Deck 7, the highest floor for passengers, First Class Cabins and Special Class Cabins (or Deluxe Cabins) are on the bow, and Second Class Shared Cabins are on the midship. The capacity of passengers is 777. The number of private cabins (Royal Suite, Suite, Semi-Suites, First Class Cabins and Special Class Cabins) have become twice as much as the number of private cabins of the former Ishikari (II) . The Second Class Shared Cabin, a large carpeted room is an adjusting valve for ferry operators to deal with increasing and decreasing of passengers on-season and off-season. And it is also useful to passengers, especially backpackers, who want an economical travel. But recently people prefer to private cabins. So, the capacity of four Second Class Shared Cabins is reduced to 68 in total.

Also, two barrier-free First Class Cabins are available for people with special needs. Though the former Ishikari (II) provided only one elevator, the new Ishikari (III) provides four elevators including the observatory elevator.

Royal Suite, Suite, Semi-Suite are all Western-style, but 'Washitsu' or Japanese-style rooms are also available among the First Class Cabins and the Special Class Cabins (or Deluxe Cabins). The ship as a whole is Western-style though, only the inside of these 'Washitsu' is a space as if Japanese medieval times. This sort of thing is often seen in modern hotels or private houses in Japan, but some non-Japanese may feel strange. Both First Class Cabins and Special Class Cabins (or Deluxe Cabins) are equipped with a toilet and a shower, but First Class Cabins are not equipped with a bathtub.

One of characteristics of the Ishikari (III) is that full vibration-proof measures are taken on the ship. Two“JFE-S. E. M. T. - Pielstick” PC2-6B Diesel Engines are on board. The engines are not only vibration-free, but also reducing CO2 emissions by 10% and NOx emissions by 30% in comparison to the former Ishikari (II). Also, fin stabilizers are enhanced to reduce rollings.

That's an objective description of the new Ishikari (III). It's possible to describe 'a luxury cruise ship without swimming pools, but with grand baths'.

But when the new Ishikari (III) is compared to the former Ishikari (II), in my opinion, the new Ishikari (III) has become somewhat simple. For example, the former Ishikari (II)'s restaurant was on the stern and spacious, meanwhile, the new Ishikari (III)'s restaurant 'Santorini' is on the starboard side and long & thin. As a result, 'Santorini' doesn't leave a magnificent impression on at least me. Also, the new Ishikari (III)'s theater is on the stern though, it's like a simple chapel. The former Ishikari (II)'s theater was gracious and like a nightclub.

After all, the former Ishikari (II) was a luxury cruiseferry, which was reflected the bubble boom of around 20 years ago. On the contrary, the new Ishikari (III) may be reflected the present Japanese society.

4. Epilogue

On March 11, 2011, massive earthquakes and huge tsunamis hit, and from March 12 to 15, four reactor buildings of Tokyo Electric Power Co.(TEPCO)'s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant blew up one after another. Three reactors were in meltdown, and a massive amount of radioactive substances leaked out. Japanese soil and the Pacific Ocean were polluted by radioactivity.

Taiheiyo Ferry resumed a freight operation only between Nagoya and Tomakomai with the Ishikari (III) and the Kiso (II) from March 23. This was the de facto debut of the Ishikari (III). The port of Sendai, where is near the temblor's epicenter was heavy damaged by the tsunamis. Therefore, it was not possible to call at Sendai at first. Ordinary services were resumed on June 5. Off the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, however, ships have been forced to take a detour.

Economic depressions, earthquakes, tsunamis and the nuclear crisis. It can't be denied that these facts throw a dark shadow over the Ishikari (III). Taiheiyo Ferry faces a crucial challenge at present, and the Japanese public face a crucial challenge, too. Under these circumstances, the Ishikari runs on the Nagoya-Sendai-Tomakomai route every day.


This is the original manuscript of my "ISHIKARI- Das neue Flaggschiff von Taiheiyo Ferry" (FERRIES, Marz 2012, Duetscher Fahrschiffahrtsverein e. V., 2012).